Senate Subcommittee Recommends PBI of SB 178 to Increase Teacher Probationary Term
January 27, 2022
January 27, 2022
On Thursday in the House Appropriations Committee, Delegate Jeffery Bourne testified on HB 1135, a bill that would fully fund the Standards of Quality (SOQ) as prescribed by the Virginia Board of Education. This bill is a major priority of the and we applaud Delegate Bourne as a VEA Legislative Champion for standing up for public schools. Watch his testimony HERE.
The bill makes several changes relating to school personnel, including
(i) establishing schoolwide ratios of students to teachers in certain schools with high concentrations of poverty and granting flexibility to provide compensation adjustments to teachers in such schools;
(ii) requiring each school board to assign licensed personnel in a manner that provides an equitable distribution of experienced, effective teachers and other personnel among all schools in the local school division;
(iii) requiring each school board to employ teacher leaders and teacher mentors at specified student-to-position ratios;
(iv) requiring state funding in addition to basic aid to support at-risk students and granting flexibility in the use of such funds by school boards;
(v) lowering the ratio of English language learner students to teachers;
(vi) requiring each school board to employ reading specialists and establishing a student-to-position ratio for such specialists;
(vii) requiring school boards to employ one full-time principal in each elementary school;
(viii) lowering the ratio of students to assistant principals and school counselors in elementary, middle, and high schools; and
(ix) increasing from at least three to at least four the required number of specialized student support positions, including school social workers, school psychologists, school nurses, licensed behavior analysts, licensed assistant behavior analysts, and other licensed health and behavioral positions, per 1,000 students.
Several bills were heard in the Senate Education Committee on Thursday. The committee reported SB 157 out favorably by a vote 8-5-1. The bill requires state funding to be provided pursuant to the general appropriation act in a sum sufficient to fund a five percent annual pay increase for each such position, effective from the 2023-2024 school year through the 2027-2028 school year, provided that such five percent annual pay increase (i) is subject to a local matching requirement in accordance with each local school board’s composite index of local ability-to-pay and (ii) shall be adjusted annually as necessary to account for rebenchmarking and to yield a rate of compensation percentage increase for all Standards of Quality-funded positions that is pegged to providing a competitive average teacher salary in the Commonwealth. The bill has a delayed effective date of July 1, 2023. Watch the vote on SB157 HERE.
Today, the Senate Education Subcommittee on Public Education heard SB178, sponsored by Senator Mark Peake.
SB 178 rolls back protections for teachers by:
Rolling back these changes enacted in 2020 could very well exacerbate the problems we are having with the recruitment and retention of teachers. Currently, 35 states require three-year probationary periods for teachers. We believe this is the right amount of time for teachers to serve a probationary period. Under the roll-back in SB178, Virginia would become one of only a handful of states that could deny a teacher’s due process for up to five years. This is an excessively long period of time. School leadership should be able to determine within three years if a teacher is a good fit for their school and division. Three years also allows for the full implementation of a thoughtful and effective mentoring and professional development program to support any new teacher.
Opponents will say that if a teacher “shows promise” after three years, but the school division isn’t certain he or she is a good fit, they will have to fire them. That is not true. After three years, a teacher who “shows promise” can be given a continuing contract and can be fired at any point but is granted due process. This isn’t about helping a third-year teacher; this is about not wanting to grant due process to a teacher in the fourth or fifth year. We are going right back to the false narrative that it is hard to fire teachers and, since so many teachers are bad, we need to make it easy to fire them.
SB178 further eliminates the three-person panel as an option for school boards in teacher grievance cases. The language in SB178 would allow for these hearings to be before the school board or in front of a hearing officer appointed by the school board. That stacks the odds against the teacher and allows the school board to fire a teacher very quickly and easily, without a fair and impartial hearing process.
Research shows that by extending the probationary periods of teachers judged to be less effective, these “extended” teachers were substantially more likely than other teachers to leave their schools.
Director of VEA Government Relations and Research, Shane Riddle, testified in strong opposition to SB178. Senator Mamie Locke moved to recommend to the full Senate Education Committee to Pass By SB178 Indefinitely. The motion passed 3-1. These is a huge win to continue the progress we made in 2020, when the Senate passed SB98, which passed the Senate and House by a near supermajority of both Democrats and Republicans. We applaud the subcommittee for upholding the three probationary period for teachers and keeping the fair and impartial process of the three-person fact-finding panel. SB178 will now move to the full Senate Education and Health Committee next week. Please reach out to Senate Ed and Health Committee members and ask them to vote to Pass-By-SB178-Indefinitely.
Stay tuned for upcoming committee schedules in Friday’s Daily Report.